A Comparison of Femininity in "Mildred Pierce" and "Gentleman Prefer Blondes"

Essay by superclownUniversity, Bachelor'sA, October 2004

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Do Gentlemen Prefer Mildred?

The male- female dynamic permeates nearly all examples of classical Hollywood cinema. The goal of the protagonist, who is most often a man, is to conquer both his private and personal objectives, in order to achieve his ultimate goal, which is to get the girl in the end. Many a rainy afternoons' entertainment was based on this simple, prolific and highly successful formula. As is often the case with any form of art, there are of course exceptions to these rules, and from these departures have derived many films which are now regarded as "Classics". Before woman's liberation, and the birth of what many would regard as "feminist" cinema, there were still strong female characters, however there actions had to adhere strongly to the classical Hollywood cinema conventions of the era. In a period when many women depicted on screen were merely passive objects to be collected at the end of the male quest, a strong female character is almost an oddity, especially when they were still found desirable by the men in the film.

The complexities of such a character become even more enigmatic, when her personality traits are contrasted with that of other females in the film who fit the traditional feminine mould more appropriately. When this occurs the relationship between two conflicting female personalities, exposes a unique subtext which highlights the absurdity of the traditional male-female dynamic which had become a staple of mid 20th century filmmaking. These strong females were most often played by woman with subtly masculine traits. Examples of two actresses, who embody an almost masculine beauty, are Jane Russell and Joan Crawford. Within the context of their given time periods of fame, they would have been most likely described as "Tough Broads", a politically incorrect, yet strangely appropriate...